With respect to Sam’s case on John 1, Yahya grants that it may have sounded pretty convincing to many people; yet, he says, with a little analysis it turns out to be full of holes. This means that if Yahya’s analysis doesn’t uncover these holes, then Sam’s response remains as it initially appeared: convincing.
In my estimation, Yahya’s refutation amounts to little more than a snow job (pun intended), an attempt to miss the obvious and abet others in doing the same. Here are my initial observations:
1. Yahya cites two examples of Muslim apologists who argue (so he says) from John 1 that Muhammad is “the Prophet”: 1) Jamal Badawi, in his pamphlet/paper “Muhammad in the Bible”; and 2) Zakir Naik, in his paper “Prophet Muhammad in the Bible.” However, the former never offers any argument for seeing the passage as a reference to Muhammad, and the latter never even so much as cites the passage. Moreover, Sam responded to Badawi’s paper long ago, “Answering Dr. Jamal Badawi: Muhammad in the Bible,” and, though Naik’s article hardly merits refutation, I’m sure if Yahya asks nicely, Sam would refute it as well. (Another response to Badawi, written by Samuel Green, can be found here.)
2. The above is most unfortunate, for with the exception of referring to the fanciful story that Muhammad miraculously fed his followers – obviously an embellished account by Muhammad’s overzealous followers to try and make him look more like Moses and Jesus – which contradicts the Qur’an (S. 28:48), Yahya completely avoids trying to personally prove that Muhammad is “the Prophet.”
3. Yahya also offers no positive evidence that the Prophet was predicted or even expected by the Jews to be a non-Israelite, and much less that the Jews expected the Prophet to be an Arab. Instead, Yahya contents himself with arguing that the evidence Sam provided does not prove that the Jews believed he was going to be an Israelite. (We will see)
4. The only thing Yahya really ends up trying to prove in his paper is the (relatively) uninteresting thesis that the Christ and the Prophet are two different people. But this, let it be remembered, and as Yahya grants at the end of his paper, is still a long ways off from proving that Muhammad was the prophet or even a prophet, a thesis Yahya wisely aborted anyway.
5. When it comes to the question of what the Jews believed about “the Prophet,” Yahya accuses Sam of reading his bias into the text, for nowhere in John 1 does it say that they believed “the Prophet” was going to be an Israelite. But Sam was talking about what the Jews assumed by their question, not what they said.
The salient facts that it was a delegation of Priests and Levites, i.e. Jews, who were sent by the Sanhedrin, i.e. Jews, to question John, a Jew, whether he was the Prophet promised to Israel, a nation of Jews, by Moses, a Jew, doesn’t seem to have affected Yahya very much. But if Sam’s view that the Jews assumed that the Prophet would be a Jew, as evidenced by the fact that they were questioning John the Baptist, is a case of reading his bias into the text, then what should we call it in Yahya’s case since he somehow sees a turban where everyone else can only see Yamakas?
(Nota Bene: It is important to keep in mind that Sam’s argument at this point was not that the prophet would be an Israelite simply because the Jews thought so; rather, he argued that if, as Muslims must concede, the Jews were mistaken in assuming that the prophet would be an Israelite, then Muslims also have to grant, at least in principle, that the Jews could have been wrong in drawing a distinction between “the Christ” and “the Prophet.”)
6. Since John (the Baptist) does not question or challenge the assumption of the Jews that the Christ and the Prophet are two different people – something easily accounted for by the fact that John is purposely being brief and dismissive in regard to himself, since his goal is to point people to the Messiah – Yahya says it suggests that John was aware of the distinction they drew and agreed with it. There are several responses to this:
a. Just because a person answers someone on their own terms, doesn’t mean they agree with their underlying assumptions. If it did, then this would backfire on Yahya; after all, it would mean that John also held the Jews’ assumption that “the Prophet” would be an Israelite. (See point #5)
b. If directly answering a person’s comments or questions without challenging all of their underlying assumptions is tantamount to agreeing with them, then it would also mean that Yahya accepts any assumption of Sam’s that he chose not to call into question; for example, that the Torah that we have was written by Moses.
c. Rather than seeing John’s terse replies as an indication that he agreed with the Jews, it can actually be argued that John answers “no, no and no” to their questions precisely because of their false assumptions.
7. By a happy “coincidence,” what Yahya is too blind to see, but prefers to write off as bias on Sam’s part, just happens to be exactly what we know from the historical record:
a) Not only do some ancient Jewish sources identify the Christ with the Prophet, but we have no evidence of any Jew of the time period who was expecting the Prophet to be a non-Jew or Arab.
b. In addition, even the Samaritans, according to authorities such as Grimm (Clavis N. T., p. 99) and Edersheim (LTJM, p. 278), believed the Christ and the Prophet to be designations that refer to one and the same person, and, therefore, to an Israelite.
c. In fact, the Jews of Muhammad’s time weren’t expecting a prophet from among the Arabs or pagans either; instead, they expected a prophet who would come to them and who would aid them against the disbelieving Arabs:
Asim b. ‘Umar b. Qatada told me that some of his tribesmen said: ‘What induced us to accept Islam, apart from God’s mercy and guidance, was what we used to hear the Jews say. We were polytheists worshipping idols, while they were people of the scriptures with knowledge which we did not possess. There was continual enmity between us, and when we got the better of them and excited their hate, they said, “The time of a prophet who is to be sent has now come. We will kill you with his aid as Ad and Iram perished.” We often used to hear them say this. When God sent His apostle we accepted him when he called us to God and we realized what their threat meant and joined him before them. We believed in him but they denied him…. (Sirat, p. 93)
Asim b. ‘Umar b. Qatada told me on the authority of some of the shaykhs of his tribe that they said that when the apostle met them he learned by inquiry that they were of the Khazraj and allies of the Jews. He invited them to sit with him and expounded to them Islam and recited the Quran to them. Now God had prepared the way for Islam in that they lived side by side with the Jews who were people of the scriptures and knowledge, while they themselves were polytheists and idolaters. They had often raided them in their district whenever bad feelings arose the Jews used to say to them, ‘A prophet will be sent soon. His day is at hand. We shall follow him and kill you by his aid as ‘Ad and Iram perished. So when they heard the apostle’s message they said one to another: This is the very prophet of whom the Jews warned us. Don’t let them get to him before us….(Sirat, p. 198)
According to what I heard from ‘Ikrima, freedman of Ibn ‘Abbas or from Sa’id b. Jubayr from Ibn ‘Abbas, the Jews used to hope that the apostle would be a help to them against Aus and Khazraj before his mission began; and when God sent him from among the Arabs they disbelieved in him and contradicted what they had formerly said about him. Mu’adh b. Jabal and Bishr b. al-Bara b. Ma’rur brother of the B. Salama said to them: ‘O Jews, fear God and become Muslims, for you used to hope for Muhammad’s help against us when we were polytheists and to tell us that he would be sent and describe him to us.’ Salam b. Mishkam, one of B. al-Nadir, said, ‘He has not brought us anything we recognize and he is not the one we spoke of to you.’ (Sirat, p. 257)
….before this Messenger came to them, they used to ask Allah to aid them by his arrival, against their polytheistic enemies in war. They used to say to the polytheists, “A Prophet shall be sent just before the end of this world and we, along with him, shall exterminate you, just as the nations of ‘Ad and Iram were exterminated.” Also, Muhammad bin Ishaq narrated that Ibn ‘Abbas said, “The Jews used to invoke Allah (for the coming of Muhammad) in order to gain victory over the Aws and Khazraj, before the Prophet was sent. When Allah sent him to the Arabs, they rejected him and denied what they used to say about him. Hence, Mu‘adh bin Jabal and Bishr bin Al-Bara’ bin Ma‘rur, from Bani Salamah, said to them, ‘O Jews! Fear Allah and embrace Islam. You used to invoke Allah for the coming of Muhammad and when we were still disbelievers and you used to tell us that he would come and describe him to us,’ Salam bin Mushkim from Bani Nadir replied, ‘He did not bring anything that we recognize. He is not the Prophet we told you about….Abu Al-‘Aliyah aid, “the Jews used to ask Allah to send Muhammad so that they would gain victory over the Arab disbelievers. They used to say, ‘O Allah! Send the Prophet that we read about – in the Tawrah – so that we can torment and kill the disbelievers alongside him.’ When Allah sent Muhammad and they saw that he was not one of them, they rejected him and envied the Arabs, even though they knew that he was the Messenger of Allah. (Ibn Kathir, Tafsir, Abridged, Vol. 1, p. 292-293)
(For part two, click here)